Coronavirus Live Updates: Humanity Faces Gravest Challenge Since World War II, U.N. Says


The United Nations warned on Wednesday that the unfolding battle against the coronavirus would lead to “enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict.”

As Americans steeled themselves for what President Trump said would be a “very, very painful two weeks,” the scale of the economic, political and societal fallout around the world came into ever greater focus.

Five weeks ago, when there were 60 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, President Trump expressed little alarm. “This is a flu,” he said. “This is like a flu.” He was still likening it to an ordinary flu as late as Friday.

By Tuesday, however, with more than 187,000 recorded cases in the United States and more Americans having been killed by the virus than by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the president’s assessment had rather drastically changed. “It’s not the flu,” he said. “It’s vicious.”

The grim-faced president who appeared in the White House briefing room for more than two hours on Tuesday evening beside charts showing death projections of hellacious proportions was coming to grips with a reality he had long refused to accept. At a minimum, the charts predicted that 100,000 to 240,000 Americans would die — and only if the nation abided by stringent social restrictions that would choke the economy and impoverish millions.

A crisis that Mr. Trump had repeatedly asserted was “under control” and hoped would “miraculously” disappear has come to consume his presidency, presenting him with a challenge that he seems only now to be seeing more clearly.

The numbers publicly outlined on Tuesday had forced him over the weekend to reverse his plan to reopen the country by Easter, but they were hardly new or surprising. Experts have been warning of a possibility like this for weeks. But more than ever before, Mr. Trump seemed to acknowledge them.

“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,” the president said, the starkest such effort he has made to prepare the country for the expected wave of disease and death. “We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks.”

“Covid-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations,” António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, said on Wednesday.

The report stated, “This is the moment to dismantle trade barriers, maintain open trade, and re-establish supply chains.”

“Tariff and nontariff measures, as well as export bans, especially those imposed on medicinal and related products, would slow countries’ action to contain the virus,” the study added. “Import taxes or restrictions on medical supplies need to be waived.”

The report called for “a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response amounting to at least 10 percent of global G.D.P.”

As the virus swept around the world, the first reaction of many nations was to retreat within their own borders, institute travel restrictions and nationalize the fight against the virus.

But the United Nations said that in this global fight, a global approach was needed.

And it is essential that developed countries immediately assist those less developed to bolster their health systems, the report found. Otherwise, the world faces the nightmare of the disease spreading like wildfire in the Global South, according to the report, with “millions of deaths and the prospect of the disease re-emerging where it was previously suppressed.

The Trump administration has decided against reopening the Affordable Care Act’s Healthcare.gov marketplaces to new customers, despite broad layoffs and growing fears that people will be uninsured for the coronavirus.

The option to reopen markets, in what is known as a special enrollment period, would have made it easier for people who have recently lost jobs or who had already been uninsured to obtain health insurance. The administration has established such special enrollment periods in the past, typically in the wake of natural disasters.

The administration had been considering the action for several weeks, and President Trump mentioned such conversations in a recent news briefing. But according to a White House official, those discussions are now over. The news of the decision was previously reported by Politico.

Under current law, people who lose job-based insurance already qualify to enroll for health insurance on the marketplaces, but are required to provide proof that they lost their coverage. A special enrollment period would have made it easier for such people to enroll, because it would not require that paperwork. It also would have provided a new option for people who chose not to buy health insurance this year but want it now.

Eleven states and the District of Columbia have established special enrollment periods to allow people to obtain new insurance coverage. Those states control their own marketplaces. But federal action would have been required to allow customers to re-enter the markets in the 37 states with markets run by Healthcare.gov.

A month ago, a cough was just a cough. Now, in the anxious era of coronavirus, a cough can be a crime.

Coughing that is directed at others is increasingly being treated as a type of assault in Europe and the United States. And in some cases, like when health workers or emergency medical workers are targeted, it can now be classified in some places as an act of terrorism.

George Falcone, a 50-year-old New Jersey man, was charged with making a terroristic threat after he intentionally coughed near a supermarket employee and told her he had the coronavirus. Margaret Cirko, 35, was arrested in Hanover Township, Pa., when she intentionally coughed and spat at a supermarket’s fresh produce after she said she was sick — the charges against her included two counts of terrorist threats and one count of threatening to use a “biological agent,” the Hanover Township Police Department said in a statement last week.

The police in Spain have in the past weeks arrested people for coughing at supermarket workers and at members of the public, and the authorities in Greece have taken similar steps against people accused of spitting at police officers, according to local media reports. In Britain, common assault charges have been leveled against people accused of coughing intentionally at others.

The Crown Prosecution Service in Britain said that those found guilty of coughing to threaten emergency workers, specifically while claiming to have Covid-19, could face 12 months in prison.

Greater Manchester Police, a force servicing an area in northwestern England, charged a 33-year-old man with assault after he coughed at a police officer last week, and the force said it had also charged a 14-year-old boy with assault after he coughed and shouted “coronavirus” at a 66-year-old woman on March 17.

Laundry, grocery shopping, even walking the dog is fraught with challenges these days. The key to accomplish any essential task is a little preparation, levelheaded thinking and a lot of hand washing before and after. (A few anti-bacterial wipes can’t hurt either.)

Nellie Bowles, who covers tech and internet culture from San Francisco for The New York Times, wrote about her losing battle with screens.

During a Tuesday evening news conference, President Trump offered a veiled criticism of the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain over the coronavirus response.

Mr. Trump said Britain had been facing “catastrophic” results if it had stayed on the initial course planned by the government in the early days of the crisis, appearing to reference the British government’s early suggestion that widespread exposure and “herd immunity” was the best way to ensure long-term protection from the coronavirus.

When Mr. Trump was asked about the measures in the United States to tackle the illness, he said that, at first, not everyone had been in agreement about the extensive lockdowns that have since swept the globe.

“A lot of people were saying: ‘Let’s just ride it out,’” he said.

“If you remember, they were looking at that concept — I guess it’s a concept if you don’t mind death, a lot of death — but they were looking at that in the U.K., remember?” he said.

Japan announced on Wednesday that it was extending a ban on entry to foreign travelers from 49 additional countries, including the Australia, China and the United States, to protect against the risk of imported infections of the coronavirus.

“With the explosive expansion of infection seen mainly in Europe and America, we decided to take stronger border measures,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said during a meeting of the government’s coronavirus task force.



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